Tuesday, January 10, 2017

WHAT’S COOKIN’, GOOD LOOKIN’? CHAPTER TWO...WHOO-HOO!






My older brother Graham and I had been raised to have good table manners  we were taught to have good manners in all instances), but knowing how to conduct one’s self at the dinner table didn’t mean I didn’t suffer from nerves when I first began to dine out.  

As a child the only times I dined outside our home were at the birthday parties of friends, around a campfire or in the club house when I was a Brownie and Girl Guide (or in our own yard on Guy Fawkes Night). Also on Saturday nights when strolling along Mary Street, Gympie window shopping with my Nana and Graham after we'd followed the kilted Gympie Scots’ Pipe Band as they played and marched down the main street.   

The pipe band came to a halt at the Memorial Gates...and, conveniently, very conveniently, next to the Gates was “Nick’s Fish & Chips” shop!  It was then when fish & chips-eating-in-public-good manners came into effect.

Wrapped snugly in newspaper, much finesse was applied to extract the golden potato chips and crispy-battered fish from their classy swathe. Even more finesse was required to find those few elusive chips and crispy bits of batter that hid at the bottom of the folds.   

The licking of one’s fingers was allowed, if done with artful delicacy and discretion.

In those days, before I left Gympie in 1965 to live and work in the city of Brisbane, dining out in restaurants wasn’t in vogue; primarily because there were no restaurants in Gympie back in the Fifties and early Sixties.   

The only “formal” dining venues available to the public were the Dorith Coffee Lounge, various cafés and the dining rooms of the local pubs.  The cafés were far more modest and humble than today’s cafés. They were places where you could indulge in a golden meat pie with mushy peas and mashed spuds while sipping on a tall glass of icy-cold Cherry Cola or a Golden Circle Pineapple juice. Tea or coffee, if so inclined, were more the inclinations of the older generations. 

As it was, the Dorith Coffee Lounge didn’t arrive on the scene until the early Sixties. It no longer exists. Back in the day, I enjoyed many a toasted cheese, ham and tomato sandwich there, with glasses of apricot or peach nectar to help wash the sandwiches down.

I’ve written previously about the small parties/gatherings my friends and I enjoyed when we were teenagers and our weekends spent at the coast. We first explored the beaches at Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headlands, and not as frequently, Maroochydore, before we settled on the best (and nearest) - Noosa Heads and Sunshine Beach, with the odd visits to Peregian and Coolum when we could hitch a ride or were offered one, 

During those weekends and our mid-week gatherings I somehow was the one who donned the apron; not that I complained.  I enjoyed doing so.

From those simple beginnings and environs, however, not only had my taste buds been alerted to all sorts of interesting fare, but the cooking and hosting seeds were planted. My love of restaurants was born; and more particularly, what went on in the kitchens of those restaurants!  What went on behind the scenes intrigued me. I was fascinated.  I began reading as much material I could lay my hands on; and I laid my hands on a lot!

After spending the first five years of my working life as a legal secretary in a Gympie law firm, I spent my first six or seven weeks in Brisbane doing similar work for a city law firm, but I soon tired of the taking dictation; typing page after page on the troubles of others.  I was in search of something different; and from attending a party one Saturday evening, I found it.  

To my mother and grandmother's despair (they were back in Gympie), but even more so, my older brother Graham's displeasure, I left my legal secretary role to take up a position within the fashion industry (the Queensland office, showrooms and warehouse of a national company). There I remained for the next 14 years.  

At the time of my switching jobs, Graham threatened to come down to Brisbane (he was then living in Mackay, in North Queensland), and, in his words: "Drag me back home to Gympie!"  

That I should dare change jobs within such a short period after having remained with my first employers, in Gympie, for five years was beyond Graham's comprehension of what his "little" sister should be doing.  That I was 20 years old made no difference to him...to him I was still a little kid!   

He never did drag me back to Gympie, by the way.  And I told him, holding nothing back, to mind his own business!

In my new job, I became secretary to the Queensland Manager, as well as taking on the mantle of Office Manageress, and later, States Sales Coordinator. For our promotional evenings, which we held three or four times a year, when launching new lines, the company hired caterers to cater for our retail buyers; those buyers included the major department stores such as Myer and David Jones.

All the time, my inner, latent “chef” was biting at the bit; rearing to be let loose! I could no longer deny its demands.  My desire to lash out kept nagging at me.

Frequently, I used to host and cater my own private dinner parties within my own home.  Rarely a Saturday night went by that I didn’t have guests sitting around my dinner table...or some kind of party going on.

Early 1969, a few months after my first husband and I separated, to earn some extra money, I obtained a part-time, casual evening job waiting on tables at “The Pelican Tavern”, an eatery in St. Paul’s Terrace, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane! 

Initially, I was to work only Friday and Saturday evenings, but in time, when required, I often worked five nights a week. I was in my element!  I loved it!

With keen interest, I watched, questioned and learned so much from Kyriol Wypow, the owner/chef.  He was a dedicated, self-taught chef/cook. 

Mr. Wypow recognised my interest wasn't superficial. He became a willing teacher; and a good friend. 

I loved teasing him...and he enjoyed my teasing; it was more baiting, than teasing, probably.  It was a two-way street,

The other waitresses were in awe of him (and a little fearful), but I wasn’t. I could see through his sometimes serious, abrasive exterior.  His eyes were dead give-aways.  The mischievous glint that always lurked was obvious to me.  He never fooled me; and he enjoyed the games of cat and mouse we played. 

Mr. Wypow originally came from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It was in remembrance of the numerous pelicans that inhabited the area around the Dnieper River the tavern was christened as such. 

Kiev was caught up in the turbulence of the Russian Revolution.  Kyriol Wypow wanted no part of the Soviet Union; of  communism. Therefore in 1920 or 1921 he packed his swag. Alone, he trekked his way south through Turkey, ending up in Australia. His first port of call was South Australia.  A few years later he wended his way up to south-east Queensland.

With his own hands, blood, sweat, and probably no tears, he personally built the tavern from the ground up. He was deservedly proud of his achievement.  He was married to a lovely lady who had her own hairdressing salon in the inner city.

Mr. Wypow was a fine, intelligent man.  And one I’ve always felt honoured to have known.  He taught me so much, and not only about cooking. His knowledge on most subjects was vast.

One day I approached my boss (of my day job) with a grand plan I’d concocted. Being agreeable to my idea he, in turn, approached Head Office in Sydney.  Without hesitation, they agreed to what we’d put before them. 

I believed I could do a better job for our promotional evenings than the commercial caterers who handled the company’s needs.

One is filled with bravado when one is younger!  Taking the dive off the deep end, my eyes were open, even if my heart was pounding.  But, I did believe in myself (as far as the catering was concerned, at least); and with that determination, in the first place, I refused to let myself down, or others thereafter!   I didn’t belly flop – thank goodness!

Under the banner of “John Galt Distributors” I would cater for the company’s future Brisbane promotional evenings.  No longer requiring the services of the catering company we had been using, I would purchase, prepare, serve, and then invoice our Sydney Head Office for the job performed.  The company would pay John Galt Distributors, which was, in fact, me.   

My little “company” was so named in honour of Ayn Rand’s protagonist in “Atlas Shrugged”.  Ayn Rand, herself, of course, in 1926 at the tender age of 21 years, moved to the United States from Russia.  She left her family behind, but over the ensuing years she made many attempts to bring her parents and sisters to the States, but permission was never granted for them emigrate.

I was on my way – still with many roads ahead - all of which at that point in time were still unknown - to explore, but on my way, nonetheless. Not in my wildest imagination would I’ve envisaged what lay ahead for me.

However, my first steps had been taken in the professional food industry...steps for which I would be paid, no less!   

So much to learn...and so much fun to be had in the learning...and doing.

Let the games begin!



Lamb Shashliks: Dice 500g lamb, into approx 1-1/2 inch square pieces.  Cut onions into wedges; separate the pieces of onion (the onion pieces should be about 1-inch to 1-1/2 inches in size). Cut a red capsicum, a green capsicum and a yellow capsicum into pieces about the same size as the lamb and onion.  You can also do similar to pieces of bacon, if you like. Combine the lamb, capsicums/peppers, onion, and bacon, if using, 3tbs olive oil, 4tsp finely chopped garlic, juice of 1 or 2 lemon and 3 rosemary sprigs together (or substitute white vinegar instead of the lemon and/or dry white wine; add some oregano, too.  Just make sure you’ve enough of the marinade to cover all ingredients.  My quantities are not exact quantities – I always make the shashliks without taking much notice of exact quantities – and I always make them using the white vinegar and white wine method – free-wheeler that I am). Season to taste  Cover and marinate overnight; or even for a day or two.  Thread ingredients, alternately onto metal BB! Skewers.  Place on grill; cook about 5mins...then turn over (the shashliks, that is, not you) and cook for a further 5-10mins, to your taste..


Tuesday, January 03, 2017

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH, DEAR FRIENDS – ONCE MORE!





Finally – and thankfully - The “Silly Season” has come to an end!  There it goes!  Bye! Bye! See you later!

Having drifted over the far horizon, it, too, has become part of the past. 

What once was present is now past; time and the present move on so fast! Off together they skip, hand in hand, at a pace unsurpassed.

I, for one, am glad the madness is all over. 
  
For many silver-haired old devils like me; those of us who have, to our surprise, discovered we’re now somewhat uncomfortably seated in the vintage section of Life – in the bleachers; and for those who’ve shifted into the highly-respected antique category, who have taken up their deserved positions in a box (no...NOT that kind of box!  You people!) - in Life’s dignified dress circle, the Festive Season can be filled with myriad emotions, the majority of which, for many, are not of the festive kind.

We silver-haired, silver-tongued “golden oldies’ have paid our dues. Our vast vaults are a-brim to overflowing with memories made while paying those dues - the expected and unexpected. 

Throughout Christmas and New Year one’s emotions can overwhelm as our reflections freewheel at their own freewill on the happy times, and on the sad, once shared with loved ones who are no longer with us.  Gone, our loved ones may be, but they’re never forgotten. Particularly when they insist on returning to haunt over Christmas-New Year!!

Being the Last of the Mohicans in my clan of Mohicans my thoughts always go back to the Christmases spent as a child with my now late brother, Graham; of the galvanised iron wash tubs filled with ice and luscious, juicy watermelons that sat in the cool shade beneath our home in Gympie...watermelons waiting for the obligatory watermelon fight that annually followed our Christmas lunches - feasts that were fit for royalty. 

Our Christmas table was set and decorated on Christmas Eve.  Bowls of nuts (in the shell, with sturdy nutcrackers beside each bowl for a cracking good time), crystallised ginger, a variety of lollies that always Licorice Allsorts.(the table and Christmas weren’t complete without Licorice Allsorts – not in our household, anyway) adorned the festive table.   

With eyes that glittered in direct competition with the tinsel and shiny baubles on our Christmas tree ,Graham and I, typical siblings that we were, held a truce while we awaited Santa’s arrival.  

The truce invariably ended on Christmas night.  It was inevitable.

When I was a little girl every Christmas night I “produced”, “directed” and “choreographed” a concert for our small family unit of four; sometimes the capacity audience grew to five when our uncle, Mum's brother visited.  We managed to find a seat for him.  Our Uncle Dudley always had free entry, no booking necessary.

It’s an understatement to say Graham was a reluctant participant.

Having to be dressed up as Prince Charming, as well as a one-boy version of the three Ugly Sisters and their evil mother, Cinderella’s nasty stepmother, wasn’t my brother's idea of boyish fun!   

However, no matter how much he tried to disrupt my little productions (and try he did) my determination prevailed...only just!  

Needless to say, Graham wasn’t very keen on tap-dancing, either. He hated it when I asked him to be “Gene Kelly” or “Donald O’Connor”  to my “Mitzi Gaynor” or “Vera Ellen”! 

When it came to him being Sir Robert Helpmann to my Dame Margot Fonteyn...I was really pushing the buttons!  

I guess the line had to be drawn somewhere...particularly when my partner/co-star was climbing out of our mother’s bedroom window in an effort to escape!

My brother’s off-Broadway appearances were a secret I’m sure he kept from his mates.  By him, no doubt they were well-kept secrets for years until Christmas 1986.  

That's when all was revealed!
 
Christmas 1986 I was managing the resort at Cape Richards on Hinchinbrook Island.  Graham was a member of my staff at the time.   

Christmas on the island was a load of fun.  The resort’s guests enjoyed it as much as my staff and I did.  Because for most of my staff, if not all, it was the first Christmas they’d had away from their families and loved ones I was determined each and every one of them, and as a group, would have a fun Christmas.  And that they did...one I’m sure none have forgotten.

On Christmas Eve, guests and off-duty staff alike were having drinks at the resort bar when I decided it was time to let the secret of Graham’s thespian, foot-tapping, toe-pointing past out of the bag.  

Very Victorian of him....he was not amused, but eventually, after a couple more beers, he did see the funny side.  But when requested to display some of his soft-shoe shuffled he declined politely; although he did sign autographs to his adoring fans!

When Graham and I were kids, after feasting on an over-abundant hot, roast meal of chicken (or turkey – it depended), roast pork with golden, crisp crackling, leg ham, apple sauce, rich gravy, along with every possible vegetable under the Queensland sun; after managing the near-impossible - making room where no room could possibly remain in our stomachs for Christmas pudding – make room we did.  

Of course, our mammoth efforts were made because of the threepences and sixpences buried within the cloth-clad rich Christmas fruit pudding.

Along with my childhood Christmas memories, my Hinchinbrook Island’s Noel celebrations, and many others, too many to describe here, one Christmas that has always, and will always remain alive and clear in my stock of memories is Christmas of 1990 when I lived on Newry Island.  

There I was, valiantly trying to maintain some semblance of sanity in front of my guests while an uninvited guest, Cyclone Joy was outside causing as much havoc as “she” could muster!  Surprisingly, I did manage to keep up my stoic facade throughout the hair-raising experience!

 

In detail I’ve written about that time previously on my blog, so I won’t repeat the story here and now.  But the story lies within if you wish to go in search.  If you’re interested to learn more....it’s easy to find...

Saturday, December 26, 2015



So here we are...a few days into 2017. What wonders, one wonders, lay ahead? What memories will be made this year?   Happy, good ones, I hope...for all of us.

Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of reality...time to rid ourselves of the Festive Blues...me to do so, anyway.   

I'm also still trying to get rid of fruit mince tarts, Christmas cake (only one slice left!), shortbread etc!

The Summer of Tennis has my undivided attention - and will do so for the rest of January...that will do me for a good start to the year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

X IS FOR EXCEEDINGLY, EXCITEDLY EXPECTANT! IS IT TOO MUCH TO HOPE FOR?





I’ve no unexpected expectant news to announce.  As would be expected, I’d expire if that exceedingly weird miracle existed! 

I’m expectantly living in hope; hoping 2017 expands into a far better year than 2016. 
 
Beyond ridiculous, 2016 was excessively marred by excruciating events; mostly caused by the hands of Man.  And, please don't go all "sexist" on me....you know what I mean; and I how mean it without me having to explain....

I’ve two exes. I’m on friendly terms with both my exes.  No “Xs” are ticked off in the boxes beside their names and mine. There’s nothing extraordinary in that. It’s how life should be, in my opinion; and fortunately, for me, it is.   
Through the years, my exes and I have exercised goodwill towards each other; never having reason not to do so. 2016 has been no different.

My first ex and I both spent our childhoods in Gympie.  Coincidentally, he and his family lived in the street behind where I lived. We could see each other’s home from our respective verandahs.  We didn’t need expensive binoculars to spy on each other, not that we had any interest in doing so when we were kids. Mervyn was, and still is, five years older than me.  And when he started working, it was off to Brisbane he went!  My No.1 ex was an ex-Noosa Heads Lifesaver, as was my late brother, Graham.   

Ex, No. 2 Randall and I are in regular contact.  We’re good mates, and I believe it’s excellent that we are.

How the years are rapidly slipping away, but fortunately many friendships remain as the past expands.  Some friendships have exploded through the years, but I guess that is to be expected. Not everything remains the same, nor do some people.  However, there are exceptions to the rule.... this I do sincerely believe.

2016 has been a shit year in so many ways, for far too many people.  It’s been a year overflowing with too much violence; too much hate; too much heartache; too much stupidity; too much short-sightedness, selfishness and envy.

I know I’m not alone in having experienced sadness during the past year.  On the scale, mine is minor to that experienced by thousands of others.  My fluctuations in emotions pale into significance when compared to what many have had to deal with here in Australia, as well as with our kindred beings in other countries throughout our exceedingly mixed-up world.   

Thousands upon thousands were exposed to far greater, unimaginable heartache; to unexplainable losses; too many were/are victims of extreme violence.  

Sadly, and disturbingly, there are no signs the behaviours exhibited are going to cease any time soon, if ever. 

I’m not a religious person, but I think the world needs an exorcism to rid it of the over-riding, wide-spread evil that exists. It’s expanding as rapidly as a pandemic.  An excerptor is desperately needed to do some culling! 

2016 has been an extravaganza of hate; an exhibition of foolishness, violence, avarice and disrespect; sadly lacking decency and dignity.

What is wrong with humans that they are so filled with extraordinary hate, ignorance, stupidity, greed, envy, vindictiveness etc., etc., et al, and more?  

With no exception, they need their heads examined! The problem, of course, is there’s little or no brain matter in there with which to work.  A team of expert excavators could be sent in and they’d still come up empty-handed!

You might think I’m being excessive in my expressions of my thoughts; exchanges upon which, perhaps, I’m expending too much; exposing myself, so to speak. 

However, following due consideration, me, myself and I made an executive decision.

After extracting excessive, redundant cogitation; exercising a little restraint, I might add, I, myself and me decided to make an explosive announcement. 
 
I, me and myself exclaim loudly for everyone to hear –not only on our own home front, but all areas far and wide – “Roll up our sleeves! Let’s expel and expunge negativity from the world!”  

Me, myself and I wish everyone an exceptionally excellent 2017. 

May happiness, good health, peace, positivity and love like manna from Heaven shower down upon all of us.  May humans take pride in themselves and others; may they respect themselves and others....

Let’s exalt our standards of behaviour, thinking, being and caring.
  
It’s time to exhale....Happy New Year! 

Exceptional Egg Salad:  Whisk together 6tbs lemon juice and 2tsp honey; slowly drizzle in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil, whisking constantly; season. Cook 8-10 bacon rashes until golden and crisp; transfer to paper towel to drain and cool; then crumble into bite-size pieces. Preheat oven, 190C. Toss 2c diced sweet potatoes in olive oil; season; roast, 20-25mins; cool briefly. Carefully shave 30 Brussels sprouts with a mandoline; use fingers to separate layers; fluff the sprouts. Toss Brussels sprouts with the other ingredients and the vinaigrette; divide among plates. Shave some Parmigiano Reggiano into shards; place on top of each salad along with a soft-poached egg on each.

Extra Special Pasta Salad: Cook 240g whole-wheat rotini, fusilli or similar pasta as directed; drain; cook; transfer to large serving bowl. Add 1-1/2c small-cut broccoli florets, 1c halved cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 small yellow capsicum, diced, 1/3c sliced pepperoni, quartered, 1/4c diced red onion, 65g pitted black olives, 1/2c crumbled feta and 3tbs chopped parsley. Italian Dressing: slice 1 small tomato in half; rub inside edges (non-peel) against coarse grater over small bowl; grate all tomatoes interior (juices and flesh) into bowl; discard peel. Whisk in 1tbs red wine vinegar, 1tbs Greek yoghurt, 1tbs x-virgin olive oil, 2ts Dijon mustard, 1tsp honey, 1/2tsp minced garlic, 1/4tsp each salt, oregano and dried basil and 1/8th tsp ground black pepper. Pour dressing over pasta; toss gently.

Exemplary Egg & Spinach Salad: In saucepan heat 6tbs olive oil; add 1 thinly-sliced onion; remove from heat; stir in 2tbs white wine vinegar, 2tsp grainy mustard, salt and pepper. In bowl combine 2 trimmed bunches spinach, 240g ham, sliced ¼-inch thick and into small sticks and 6 thinly sliced radishes; drizzle onion mixture over salad; toss; garnish with 6 quartered hard-boiled eggs.

Eggscellent-Quinoa Salad: Rinse 175g quinoa in sieve; place in pan; pour over 40ml vegetable stock; bring to boil; cover and simmer, 20mins or until liquid is absorbed. Drain any excess liquid; return the quinoa to pan; leave it covered for 5mins.  Boil 6 large eggs for 7mins; remove from heat; drain and rinse under cold water; then shell eggs. Cut each into quarters. Blanche 175g broccoli florets for 3mins; drain and rinse under cold running water; drain. Toast 4tbs pumpkin seeds until they start popping; place in serving bowl; add quinoa, broccoli, 4 sliced shallots, green and white parts, 150g halved cherry tomatoes, 3tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley, 3tbs x-olive oil, zest and juice of half lemon, salt and pepper; mix well. Gently stir through the hard-boiled eggs.  

Extreme Egg Avo-Go Salad:  In bowl mash until creamy 2 ripe avocados in bowl with some lemon juice, salt, pepper, curry powder.  Hard boil 4 eggs; peel then dice. Gently fold the eggs into the avocado along with 3tbs diced red onion and 3tbs finely chopped fresh chives.  Re-season with lemon juice, salt and pepper (and curry powder) if necessary. Serve on rocket/arugula and rye bread.Top of Form

Excellent Smoothie: Blend until smooth, 2c honeydew melon, skinned and de-seeded, 1 large, seeded, quartered pear, 1 medium, de-seeded apple; add 4 ice cubes or cold water, as needed/desired.   Whack in a Kiwi fruit or two, too, if you like...a little extra will make it extraordinary extra special!